What is psychotherapy? Main characteristics of this process

Psychotherapy is not a complex process, in which the patient and the therapist establish a relationship of trust, but always without losing the sense of what defines a professional context.

There are several aspects that define good psychotherapy, its duration and its goals. Below we will answer in depth the question of what is psychotherapy.

    What is psychotherapy?

    Psychotherapy is treatment aimed at a change in thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that may have caused the patient’s discomfort and mental health issues. This process takes place between a professional, with the training and clinical skills necessary to facilitate psychological change, and the patient or client who has come to the consultation for help.

    The psychologist listens to the suffering, difficulties, problems and doubts of the patient, encouraging the expression of what he has really lived. In addition, with the work of the psychologist, it will be possible to put into words what the patient has experienced, by making available different techniques, preferably scientifically validated, such as reformulation of problems, open questions, situation exercises. . All these techniques can vary according to the psychologist’s current, and can be cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic, humanistic …

    The main intention of the application of these techniques is make changes in the patient, create new habits, healthier and more effective, which will allow him to increase his well-being. This is done in the psychotherapeutic context by making the patient confront himself, his problems, virtues and defects, in addition to applying the techniques learned in consultation. The ultimate goal of the process is to lead the patient to lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.

    When is it necessary?

    In popular culture, there are still many myths surrounding psychotherapy, including “going to the psychologist is crazy”. In addition, going to a psychologist is considered excessive for problems perceived as being able to be solved from home or from the circle of acquaintances. Others may find that they are doing perfectly well and do not need the help of a mental health professional.

    However, going for psychotherapy is always a good option, whether you have a serious psychological problem or just want more control over your life. It is worth overcoming the fear of going to the psychologistEspecially if you consider that sometimes you are suffering from something that has a relatively easy solution in the hands of a professional, such as momentary episodes of depression, anxiety, or scathing tantrums.

    Psychotherapy is also recommended for people who are suffering from serious illness. Going to a psychotherapist is strongly recommended in cases such as cancer, HIV / AIDS, morbid obesity, terminal illness, loss of a limb, amyotrophic lateral atrophy (ALS), hearing and / or visual impairment … will not cure not the disease, it will help the person to accept the process, to take a more optimistic and constructive view of their life or, in the case of a chronic illness, learn strategies to be able to cope with it.

    Another reason why you may go for psychotherapy has nothing to do with psychopathology or medical illnesses, but with situations in which if you do not receive the proper help, the health of those involved may be affected, such as divorce, leaving children, feeling overwhelmed with studies or work, or losing a loved one.

      Features of psychotherapy

      these are the main defining characteristics of psychotherapy, both patient and therapist related.

      • Patient dissatisfaction with their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
      • Need and seeking help.
      • Therapists create a warm, supportive and respectful emotional atmosphere.
      • Patient confidence and hope are encouraged.
      • He does not criticize the patient.
      • The therapy aims to produce changes consistent with the patient’s goals.
      • It is about improving the well-being of the patient.
      • Teach meaningful emotional, behavioral and cognitive learning.
      • Neutralization of irrational fears.

      The most important characteristics of psychotherapy have to do with that a strong therapeutic alliance is established between the patient and the therapist. It is through this that he helps to create a warm atmosphere in which the patient is sincere and explains everything that happens to him, in addition to highlighting his irrational beliefs.

      With this, the psychologist will try to develop strategies to change maladaptive behaviors, irrational fears, dysphoric emotions and dysfunctional ways of relating with others.

      Progress of treatment

      As psychotherapy progresses, the therapeutic alliance between patient and professional will continue to be forged. During this process, the psychologist may perform some assessments, such as applying questionnaires, to get to know his patient better.. Clinical psychologists are trained to administer and interpret tests of various types, such as personality and intelligence tests, as well as questionnaires to find out the degree of general malaise, depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems. .

      After the patient has responded to any tests, the psychologist has objective information about him. Based on the results of these tests, an accurate diagnosis can be made of the nature of the patient’s problem, in addition to knowing his personality traits, whether he has a high endowment or, on the contrary, suffers from some type of personality trouble. Or Intellectual disability. Based on all this information obtained, the psychologist can establish a scenario of the progress of the treatment.

      In the first step of the process, the psychologist will help the patient to clarify the situation of his problem.. He will also tell you how to proceed with the therapy and how many times you will need to go to the consultation per week. This part of the process usually takes place during the first few sessions which, depending on the tests administered and the complexity of the patient’s problem, can range from one session to three or four.

      Once this step is over, we take action, it is the solution to the problems. To do this, the patient and the therapist will work together, albeit in an asymmetric and professional relationship, since the psychologist is the one who has the specialist knowledge and knows what strategies need to be applied. At this point in therapy, it is about finding ways of thinking, behaving and dealing with feelings that are effective for the patient. to face the adversities of life.

      Throughout the sessions, the psychologist can ask the patient to do exercises to dramatize the new learned behaviors. It will also ask you to repeat them while you are at home or in the problematic situation.. As the treatment progresses, the psychologist and the patient observe whether or not there is an actual process or whether, if not, the original goals need to be reformulated.

      When psychotherapy progresses well, the patient acquires new skills that will allow them to see themselves differently, in addition to having a more positive outlook on life. With treatment, you will learn to distinguish between situations that can change and situations that cannot, by applying what they have learned by trying to change the first and accepting the second. too much he will acquire greater resilience, that is to say a better fight against challenges and adversities without having a whole series of dysfunctional thoughts that would increase their discomfort.


      In the profession of psychologist, confidentiality and respect for the private life of patients are fundamental, and is part of the professional code of ethics. In fact, a clinical psychologist who violates patient confidentiality risks losing the ability to practice. With this in mind, patients do not have to worry about what to say in a psychotherapeutic context, being able to speak candidly and honestly about their innermost thoughts and behaviors.

      While the patient should not fear that the psychologist will reveal their secrets, yes there are situations in which this confidentiality is broken but in a justified manner. For example, when a court order requires psychological data from one of the people involved in a legal proceeding, the patient has declared that he is going to kill himself or that he is going to harm others or that he was the victim of abuse., Exploitation. or abandonment of children, the elderly or the destitute, as severely disabled.

      Effectiveness of psychotherapy

      Psychotherapy is known to be conversational therapy, in which dialogue is essential for it to take place.. Knowing this, it is possible that more than one has wondered why it is necessary to see a psychologist who has a group of friends and family members with whom you can talk about problems.

      Psychologists are more than anyone to hang out with. They are professionals who have expert knowledge, acquired over several years of training, to be able to understand people’s problems, as well as find a way to solve them and increase their well-being. In addition, scientific evidence shows that psychotherapy is an effective treatment, and perfectly combinable with psychiatric treatments.

      About 75% of people who take psychotherapy see some benefit as it progresses, usually between 6 and 12. In addition, comparative studies have been conducted between those who do and those who do not go to a psychologist. , with 80% of people who went to psychotherapy feeling much better at the end of treatment.

      There are three factors that make psychotherapeutic treatment work:

      • Evidence-based treatment adapted to the patient’s problem.
      • Clinical knowledge of the psychologist.
      • Patient characteristics, beliefs, values, culture and preferences.

      The end of the process

      Although it is often thought that psychotherapy is a process that lasts for years, it really is not always. The duration of psychotherapy depends on several factors, such as the type of problem or disorder the patient suffers from, their personality and cultural characteristics, their history of psychological problems and the treatments they have undergone. They also influence the patient’s goals and expectations for therapy., In addition to what goes beyond the query.

      Although it is not recommended, some only have one session and immediately feel relieved. It is not recommended since a single session is not enough to get to know the patient’s problem in depth and if there has really been a significant and lasting improvement. Although it should be noted that at first contact, the patient can gain a new perspective, And that the psychologist can provide you with ways to handle the situations.

      Many find benefits after a few sessions, especially if it is a single, well-defined issue that you weren’t expecting much to act on when it first appeared. Other people and situations may take longer, such as one or two years, for truly lasting benefits to begin to manifest in the person’s level of well-being. This is what can happen to people who have suffered severe trauma or who have faced serious problems.

      People with severe and chronic mental disorders may require psychotherapy indefinitely, accompanied by pharmacology and visits to the psychiatrist. to assess whether they are suffering from side effects of the drug. Regular psychotherapy sessions can provide the necessary support to maintain good daily functioning, despite an illness that is unfortunately often chronic.

      Other people, despite having solved their problems, may continue to receive psychotherapy. This may be because they continue to enjoy a better understanding of life, better well-being and it makes them feel that a psychotherapist can work better. Going to the psychologist, if you’re okay, shouldn’t be seen as looking for problems we don’t have, but as a way to make sure you’re okay, like going to the doctor for a checkup or who goes to the dentist for a dental cleaning.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Ching, J., Londoño-McConnell, A., Molitor, N. and Ritz, M. (sf). Understand psychotherapy. United States. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/centrodeapoyo/entendiendo-la-psicoterapia.

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